Undergraduate student Sarah Grace Smith publishes "Pink," a flash fiction piece
“My world has been pink for three weeks.”
So begins “Pink,” undergraduate student Sarah Grace Smith’s first published work. The flash fiction piece appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine in November 2020.
Smith, a second-year English major concentrating in creative writing and minoring in history, wrote “Pink” for English 3465, an intermediate fiction writing class. Taught by MFA candidate Scott Broker (since graduated), the special topic was uncanny fiction.
“Scott told us in class one day that to write uncanny or speculative fiction, a great way to start brainstorming was to change a singular aspect of our world. I imagined a world where we were fed via touch rather than food. To add some extra flare to the story, I decided to make the world appear pink when one was hungry,” Smith says. “With this world built, I saw a perfect opportunity for a commentary on class dynamics and poverty.”
Smith’s narrator sits outside Pop Shop, a restaurant of sorts where people can purchase and feed on physical touch. Unable to pay, the narrator sits on the sidewalk, hoping a kind passerby will extend a hand—literally—in kindness. It does not happen. Instead, the people walking past “avert their eyes and hold their loved ones closer, trying not to think about what life is like as a pink-seer.” Still, the narrator remains, their only other options a shelter that serves “biweekly beatings so intense [they] threw up [their] meals afterward,” or Mama’s, “a place where starved girls can be fed by paying men.” The world of “Pink” is a mirror, one that offers a grim reflection of capitalist phobias and prejudices.
Smith faced challenges on the road to publication, the first being the revision process. “There was always one more thing to fix,” Smith recalls. “I felt like the story would never be finished!” Of course, Smith did eventually complete the piece—only to face the daunting task of submitting it to literary journals. “It is a very frustrating process that can be quite disheartening as a writer,” she says.
At long last, after multiple rounds of applications, rejections and more applications, Smith received the email she’d been hoping for—and on her birthday, no less. “In the early evening I received an email during a club Zoom meeting. I saw it was from a literary journal and clicked it open, expecting to see another rejection, which I would add to my literary magazine submissions spreadsheet,” she remembers. “To my surprise, it was an acceptance email...tears began to form as I realized I was about to be an officially published author. I struggled to keep a straight face through the rest of the Zoom meeting as I texted all my friends and family.”
When asked whether she would like to thank anyone for helping her reach this point, Smith is generous, citing a list of family, friends and mentors. She addresses her parents first, saying, “I’d like to thank my father, a published author, who raised me to love the written word, and my mother, who read every book I read just so I would have someone to talk about it with.”
While not related by blood, Smith considers the English department her family, too. “I have never met such supportive and encouraging faculty,” she effuses. “Sheldon Costa, my first fiction professor, and his roommate, Scott Broker, saw potential in me, making me feel like I could actually be published. Nick White encouraged me to keep writing and to submit to literary magazines.”
Smith concludes by recognizing the friends who supported her along the way. “Sam Culyer, a friend from high school and a pen pal, edits and comments on all my work,” she says. “And finally, thank you to Emma Deimling, a junior English major in the creative writing concentration, for our many coffee shop writing, revision and submitting sessions.”
Congratulations to Sarah Grace Smith on this exciting accomplishment! To read her flash fiction piece, “Pink,” visit Flash Fiction Magazine.